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Function Of The Rebbe: To Remove Obscurity
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

Coming from Chag HaShavuos, the day Hashem chose each member of the Jewish people, I’d like to share a story that was told by the mashpia Reb Mordechai Kozliner. It illustrates the essential quality of even the most outwardly assimilated Jew, and demonstrates the Nasi’s ability to reveal the person’s inner essence:

Some time after the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in the United States, he sent the late Reb Shmuel Levitin to Chicago on a special mission: to locate a Jewish man by the name of Lisner. Mr. Lisner was descended from Chassidim, and his last name had actually been Anglicized from Liozhner. Reb Shmuel was to tell him all about his illustrious Chassidic ancestors and attempt to return him to the path of Torah and mitzvos.

The mission was successful, and Mr. Lisner later served on the board of Yeshiva Achei-Tmimim of Chicago. He also merited to receive a special letter from the Rebbe Rayatz (printed in Volume 8 of the Rebbe Rayatz’s Igros Kodesh) in which the Rebbe revealed many interesting facts about his family. What follows are excerpts of that letter, in free translation:

“Surely your late father, my esteemed friend and Chassid, has told you all the details of your illustrious family and how their name came to be Liozhner,” the Rebbe Rayatz wrote. “Your grandfather, Reb Mendel Yitzchak, was born in the city of Staradov, in the district of Tshernigov, and studied in the yeshiva of my grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, in Lubavitch. At the Tzemach Tzedek’s directive he learned sh’chita from Reb Tzvi Hirsh, after which the Tzemach Tzedek appointed him head shochet of the city of Vitebsk, and blessed him with long life and success. Your grandfather was a shochet for 58 years, and not once was an animal declared treif because of a mistake in the way it was slaughtered.

“Reb Mendel Yitzchak told me that his grandfather, Reb Yechezkel of Staradov, was a Chassid of the Alter Rebbe. Reb Mendel Yitzchak made a pilgrimage to the Rebbe in Liozhna every two years by foot. When the law was passed requiring every family to adopt a surname, he chose Liozhnov, after the Alter Rebbe’s hometown.

“Reb Mendel also told me the following: When the news reached Staradov that the Alter Rebbe had been arrested and taken away in the notorious black carriage (which was reserved for capital offenses), Reb Yechezkel gathered all the Chassidim together and announced that he was accepting upon himself all of the Rebbe’s suffering, up to and including death. For three consecutive days and nights he fasted, and on the afternoon of the third day he davened an early Mincha. Reb Yechezkel then told the Chassidim that he would pass away within a few hours, as his prayer to be a substitute for the Alter Rebbe had been accepted, and ordered them to bring a little mashkeh with which to say a l’chaim. ‘I have no desire to enter the World to Come a tzidkaschadiker [under false pretenses; i.e., directly from fasting, as if I were a tzadik].’ He also made them swear that when the news came that the Alter Rebbe had been released, they would go to his grave with mashkeh, say l’chaim and dance. Reb Yechezkel then recited the Vidui and expired.

“That Tuesday, the 19th of Kislev, when the elder Chassidim who were Reb Yechezkel’s contemporaries arrived in shul for Tikkun Chatzos, they looked at one another expectantly, each one waiting for someone else to state what they all already knew: That night, Reb Yechezkel had appeared to each of them in a dream, and revealed that the Alter Rebbe would be liberated from prison that very day, in a major victory for Chassidus. Reb Yechezkel had known this because the Mezritcher Maggid, whose yahrtzeit was the 19th of Kislev, had revealed it to him exactly at midnight. Reb Yechezkel then reminded the Chassidim of their vow and urged them to fulfill it.

[Author’s note: The above story appears elsewhere in greater detail: That Tuesday after Mincha, the Baal Shem Tov came to the Maggid’s heichal in Gan Eden accompanied by several of his disciples and thousands of other souls. The Maggid delivered a teaching on the pasuk,Pada v’shalom nafshi – You have redeemed my soul in peace,” and explained that it refers to the soul of Dovid HaMelech. Moshe and Dovid are chochma and malchus; the “extension of Moshe in every generation” connects souls to G-dliness through the Torah; and the function of the level of Dovid is to wage an “obligatory war” to bring souls closer to the service of the Creator.]

“Your grandfather, the Chassid Reb Mendel Yitzchak of blessed memory, was one of the biggest devotees to Chabad Chassidus, and visited Lubavitch twice a year, on Shavuos and Yud-Tes Kislev. It gave me immense pleasure to hear from my son-in-law, the Rashag shlita, about your involvement in the founding of Yeshiva Achei-Tmimim Lubavitch, your fundraising on behalf of Tomchei-Tmimim Lubavitch and the organizing of Agudas Chabad, and that you have accepted the position of chairman of the board of Yeshiva Achei-Tmimim of Chicago. I hereby bestow my blessing of mazal tov upon you…”

* * *

How did Reb Shmuel actually influence Mr. Lisner? Arriving in Chicago, he met (yibadeil l’chaim aruchim) Rabbi Yosef Wineberg (author of Lessons in Tanya), and together they approached a local rabbi to try to find the mysterious Mr. Lisner. They learned that not only did Mr. Lisner never attend shul, but his store was kept open on Shabbos. In fact, his entire way of life was extremely removed from traditional observance.

After much searching they succeeded in finding him, and together, the three rabbis met him. Mr. Lisner received them warmly and listened attentively to their stories. He was very interested in every detail and was emotionally affected by the encounter.

When they finished their recital, Mr. Lisner took out his checkbook and asked them how much they wanted, adding that he would give them whatever amount they specified. He had mistakenly assumed that the point of the visit was to solicit money, which he declared himself ready and willing to contribute.

The Chassidim explained that they had not come for money, but had been sent by the Rebbe Rayatz to reconnect him to Yiddishkeit and Chassidus.

The local rabbi then explained that Yisroel stands for “yeish shishim ribo osiyos la’Torah” – there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, corresponding to the souls of every single Jew, and from which their G-dly life-force is derived. The letters of some Jews may appear to be almost completely erased, and their connection to Torah almost invisible, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the master scribe who can correct the flaw and reestablish their connection with G-dliness.

The visit left a tremendous impression on Mr. Lisner, who slowly but surely made his way back to Yiddishkeit.

Reb Shmuel Levitin returned to New York and gave the Rebbe Rayatz a full report. Among other things, he repeated the Chicago rabbi’s explanation of the six hundred thousand letters of the Torah, and how he had characterized the Rebbe as the master scribe.

Reb Shmuel expected the Rebbe Rayatz to react with a smile, but to his surprise, the Rebbe was clearly displeased. The Rebbe explained that the rabbi from Chicago was mistaken. There is no such thing as a Jew whose letter in the collective “seifer Torah” could ever be erased, for these letters are “osiyos he’chakika” – engraved, rather than written with ink. In the same way that it is impossible to erase an engraving without damaging the stone, it is impossible to sever the Jew’s essential and eternal connection to Torah and to Hashem, or even to cause the slightest damage. A Jew is connected to G-d by simple virtue of his being; the concept of erasure or separation doesn’t apply.

In truth, the essence of every Jew, regardless of who he is, is his G-dly soul, “a veritable part of G-d Above.” His physical body has also been chosen by G-d, which is derived from the Divine will. The Jew is, therefore, on the very innermost level, completely bound to G-d and His Torah with every fiber of his being. Outward appearances are completely irrelevant; one must never look at externals. Every Jew’s heart is completely whole when it comes to Hashem.

The only problem with a Jew’s “letters,” as it were, is the possibility of their becoming covered with “dust.” But when the dust is cleared away, the Jew’s essential relationship with G-d is revealed in all its glory. Indeed, this is the function of the Rebbe: to remove the dust and grime that obscures the Jew’s true being, and to uncover and strengthen his eternal bond with Hashem and His Torah.

The message is clear: Whenever one encounters a Jew who is antagonistic to Torah, one must always remember that his opposition is only chitzoniyus – emanating from his most superficial layer. Inside, that Jew is just as permanently connected to G-d as anyone else, and his particular trials and tribulations are only a potential means of strengthening that bond.

* * *

The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach derived a spiritual lesson from the principles of modern aerodynamics. Within the earth’s atmosphere, the principle of artificial flight is not based on building aircraft from materials that are lighter than air (with the exception of blimps or dirigibles, which are filled with helium or other gases.) Rather, the air itself is used to propel the aircraft upward and forward.

This principle applies to spiritual matters. Opposition to G-dliness only exists as a means of ascent. The stronger the opposition, the higher the elevation will ultimately be.

We have to remember this principle in our own situation. Unfortunately, it seems that many of us have gotten used to our present state of affairs. Moshiach and Geula have been relegated to the back burner, and no longer have the same sense of immediacy they once did. We have become complacent, and think that the current situation in which we cannot see the Rebbe is normal. We may even think that it can continue, G-d forbid.

But fortunately, whatever opposition exists (and it is only external) has forced the topic into the public eye, for the sole purpose that we conduct a true cheshbon ha’nefesh: What have we done, and what are we doing to hasten the Rebbe’s revelation? In short, every one of us must resolve to do more to make the final Redemption a reality.

In the famous sicha of Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah 5752 in which the Rebbe spoke about “the only shlichus that remains” — i.e., to prepare the world for the Redemption and greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu — the Rebbe explicitly told us how to do this: We are to explain the concepts of Moshiach and Geula, as they are elucidated in the Torah, to the residents of whatever city we live in, in a manner appropriate to each individual intellect. The Rebbe stressed that this obligation is incumbent upon each and every person without exception.

To that end, a new Hebrew-language publication has just been launched entitled “HaGeula, M’anyein Ve’achshavi,” which roughly translates into “The Redemption, Compelling and Contemporary.” This weekly brochure, which made its debut at the recent kinus of Agudas Chassidei Chabad in Eretz Yisroel, is being printed under the auspices of the Chabad World Center to Greet Moshiach, which also publishes Beis Moshiach. Copies are available from Matteh Moshiach at (03) 960-7922.

As the Rebbe MH”M said, learning about Moshiach “is the most direct, the easiest and the fastest of all the Torah’s ways to bring about the revelation and coming of Moshiach.” May it happen immediately.



The function of the Rebbe is to remove the dust and grime that obscures the Jew’s true being, and to uncover and strengthen his eternal bond with Hashem.




Moshiach and Geula have been relegated to the back burner, and no longer have the same sense of immediacy they once did.


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